2019 Provincial Budget Notes

CREDIT: I have condensed these “highlights” from an information item sent to councillors by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). Neither they or I can warrant that these items are complete or will transpire as stated. I have put some items of local interest in bold type.

Balancing the budget by 2023-24. To 2023-24, total revenue is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 3%. Program expense over the same period is expected to grow at an average rate of 1%.

Deficits are projected as follows:
$11.7 billion in 2018-19, $10.3 billion in 2019-20, $6.8 billion in 2020-21, and $5.6 billion in 2021-22

Reform of social assistance is expected to save over $1 billion by “simplifying the rates, cutting administration and unnecessary rules, and more employment opportunities.”

No increase to the municipal share of the provincial gas tax program as was expected. “Currently it is $364 million to 107 municipal governments. The government will consult with municipalities to review the program parameters and identify opportunities for improvement.”

Municipalities will be allowed to designate public areas, such as parks for the consumption of alcohol. There are other alcohol reforms contained in the budget such as the creation of a tailgating permit for eligible sporting events and extending hours of service in licensed establishments to a 9 am start, seven days a week.

$3.8 billion for mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years, beginning with the creation of a mental health and addictions system.

In 2019–20, $174 million for community mental health and addictions services, mental health and justice services, supportive housing and acute mental health inpatient beds.

(Jan’s Note: to put this into perspective, at their last meeting on April 10, 2019, Lanark County’s Social Services Committee received a report about either renovating or rebuilding Lanark Lodge, with the cost of either estimated at $73-$75 million).

A review of property assessment to:

  • “Enhance the accuracy and stability of property assessments;
  • Support a competitive business environment;
  • Provide relief to residents”; and
  • Changes to the composition of the Board of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to increase the representation of property taxpayers, diluting the proportion of current municipal government representatives, according to AMO.

Public health in 2019-20:

  • “adjusting provincial-municipal cost sharing of public health funding;”
  • By 2020-21, establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model; saving $200 million annually by 2022.
  • Integrating Ontario’s 59 emergency health services operators (e.g. 52 EMS, Ornge) and 22 provincial dispatch communication centres.

Increasing the supply of housing through a “Housing Supply Action Plan;” details not provided, but to follow

Municipalities will be required to provide real-time reporting of sewage outflows and the government will update policies related to municipal wastewater and stormwater.

Create 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and upgrade 15,000 older long-term care beds to provide more appropriate care to patients with complex health conditions. In addition to the over 6,000 new beds previously allocated, 1,157 new long-term care beds will immediately be allocated to 16 projects across the province.

“Exploring revenue sharing, including Northern communities, in the mining, forestry, and aggregates sectors.”

The Ontario Provincial Police
“Encourage workforce optimization, including vacancy management, overtime and scheduling” to save $30 million annually starting in 2019-20 without impacting front-line policing and community safety.

$16.4 million over two years to create a province-wide strategy to help combat gun and gang related crime.

The government will invest $315 million over five years as part of its Broadband and Cellular Strategy which will be released later this year.

A new CARE (Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses) tax credit would provide about 300,000 families with up to 75 per cent of their eligible child care expenses and allow families to access a broad range of child care options, including care in centres, homes and camps.

Individual seniors with annual incomes of $19,300 or less, or senior couples with combined annual incomes of less than $32,300, will be able to receive dental services in public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres across the province.

Reviewing the forestry sector to develop a strategy that includes: challenges the industry currently faces; initiatives to encourage innovation and reduce red tape; and methods to promote made-in-Ontario wood products.

Consultations on the repeal of the Far North Act, removing red tape on economic development projects like the Ring of Fire. Environmental assessment studies have been initiated for all-season access roads to the Ring of Fire.

Development of an immigration pilot initiative across Ontario. The budget also proposes changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program aimed at modernizing the program to better address labour market shortages.

Energy conservation and efficiency programs will be phased out, saving up to $442 million.

A return to the default benefit limit of $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident, after it was previously reduced to $1 million in 2016.



Come to the Public 2019 Budget Meeting

Residents of Mississippi Mills are invited to share their comments on the proposed 2019 budget on

Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 6 pm

in the Council Chambers at 3131 Old Perth Road.

The link to all the details in the last draft budget presented to Council by staff on March 12 is here:

https://icreate4.esolutionsgroup.ca/230002_iCreate_NewsModule//Management/Attachment/Download/e4ce3e3d-660c-4458-9390-0836ee578d70

The Municipal invitation and link to the agenda and a slide show on the budget is here:

https://www.mississippimills.ca/en/news/index.aspx?page=4&newsId=e568b168-a4b1-4fbd-8f3f-d5e82d88370b

Taxes and Finances

Without a history of regular financial reports to Council from the municipal administration and departments, it is hard to say how taxes will go.  The debt is currently about $4 million more than the $18 million that the ex-mayor claimed it would be at the end of 2018.

Council said that the reserves would be built up so much by 2018 that we could borrow from ourselves. The mayor wrote “…if Public Works needs $300,000 for a new piece of heavy equipment, the money comes from reserves.” However, at their last regular meeting, the 2014-2018 Council voted to borrow nearly another million dollars to buy a grader, a fire truck and other equipment. When asked by a councillor if reserves could fund it instead, the staff response was “no.” Reserves have  dropped below what they were supposed to have been at this point.

Where did things go wrong? Well, mismanaged projects and programs  headed and directed by council have cost far more than expected; in the worst case, the Pakenham library renovation project alone was approximately 100% over its budget (final figures have not been reported at this writing). On some projects, milestone and cost updates were so late that potential corrections could not help. A few projects came in so much under budget that the costing process seemed odd.

Most big-ticket projects were managed by small groups of councillors who made the spending decisions; the ill-fated library renovation and Gemmill Park projects are examples. Meanwhile, little investment of time in real public consultation was made in the Official Plan review and ill-fated park sales proposals. How much time and money were spent on ideas like paving the recreational trail for the imaginary hundreds who “commute” (when no funds were allocated – or likely – for upkeep)? Development charges earmarked for Almonte growth were spent elsewhere. The downtown infrastructure replacement project seemed to have been dropped except for end-phase benches. The result of the lack of public consultation and poor decision-making is that the Municipality has  incurred far too much in legal costs. Is there a contingent liability fund to pay for these mistakes? Or did it  cost us some basic services?

The Long Term Financial Plan apparently did not account for things like the ever-rising costs of energy, interest rates, salaries, benefits and shaky management. Residential property taxes and sky-high development charges can no longer remain the only sources of revenue.

I would like to see taxes as low as possible. With so little fiscal information in the face of some obvious misadventures, it will be a challenge. I think that a fiscally prudent back-to-basics approach will be required.